The Pillars of Zion Series - Zion—Our Origin and Our Destiny (Book 1)

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On Monday night, June 17, , the solid foundation was laid in Zion for the successful operation of a religious organization under the Episcopal form of Church government. Zion Church, in the presence of a large audience, by Dr. On this result Bishop Rush remarks:. It was the goal to which they started, when in they formed the Zion Church as the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in America--the first offspring of the M. The ordination of elders was the third step in the movement. First, the formation of the Church in Second, the incorporation and the Articles of Agreement with the M.

Church for service to be rendered by its ministers for a limited period. Third, the ordination of elders, which enabled the Connection to perform all service required of a religious organization with the Episcopal form of government. A Connection having three regularly ordained elders can make three more elders, and so on, to the limit of its needs. And except by those who claim a regular unbroken succession of Bishops from St. Peter down to this time, it is generally agreed that three elders are sufficient to ordain a Bishop when necessity requires it.

In when the convention of 25 delegates representing the A. Zion Church was held in Philadelphia, to consider the subject of organic union, the subject of Episcopacy was discussed by Elder S. Jones afterwards Bishop and Bishop D. Jones said that if the General Conference of the A. Zion Church should elect bishops for life, and elect a bench of elders, not less than three in number, to ordain the Bishop-elect, that this would be as legally made as any other Bishop under the sun.

Payne admitted the correctness of that position, and said if the General Conference of Zion Church should take that course, he would hold that Bishops thus made Page 26 were as legal Bishops as he was. Bishop Payne was one of the best informed churchmen of his day. He was an honest, fairminded man. He knew that his own bishopric rested upon no better foundation than the plan named and he cheerfully admitted the fact. The General Conference at that time submitted the question of ordaining the Bishops for life to the quarterly and annual conferences.


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It was adopted by three-fourths of the quarterly conferences and by all of the annual conferences, and was finally ratified by the General Conference of with only two dissenting voices, namely, Peter Ross and Dempsey Canady. This was the way that all organic law was made. And thus the lifetime episcopacy became an article in our organic law, which the General Conference is forbidden to alter. In there was a desire to retire two of the Bishops and for that reason some insisted upon re-election, which for harmony sake was agreed to, but it was realized that it was a questionable course, and therefore a committee was appointed to draw up a law governing the Board of Bishops, in which it was made plain that the Bishops had a life term to the episcopal office, and that the re-election only decided whether or not they should be active or retired Bishops.

If they failed a re-election, that retired them. But they were still Bishops and liable to be called into active service in case of a vacancy, or on the formation of a new district in the interval of the General Conference, and to place the matter beyond all question, each Bishop was given a certificate on parchment declaring them entitled to hold the office so long as their spirit and practice were such as becomes the gospel.

The certificates were signed by the Senior Bishop and General Secretary. Here follows the law, made in , governing the Board of Bishops:. The Board of Bishops shall meet semi-annually to counsel for the general interest of the Connection, and to attend to such duties as are required by law, and shall hold other meetings as may be necessary. A majority of all the active Bishops shall be necessary to form a quorum for the transaction of business, provided that retired Bishops shall have a seat in the Board as honorary members.

Retired Bishops are those who have been elected and installed, but are without an Episcopal charge. Active Bishops are those who are in charge of an Episcopal District. At each semi-annual meeting the Board shall elect a President and Secretary. Provided, that said President and Secretary shall have no extraordinary powers in the interval, except to call special meetings when in their judgement it may be necessary or at the request of two or more members. They shall also appoint the time and place of holding the semi-annual meeting when not fixed by the Board.

The Board shall have a general supervision over the entire Connection in the interval of the General Conference, but as individual Bishops they shall not interfere with each others work or charge. They shall make provision for new Episcopal districts when necessary, and shall also provide for any vacancy that may occur in any existing district by death, resignation or otherwise, by appointment from among the retired Bishops, provided there be a retired Bishop able to travel; provided, further, that they shall consult the wishes of the Conferences embraced in the vacant district.

It will thus be seen the law governing the Board of Bishops adopted in divided them into two classes: Active and Retired. If they failed of re-election, they were retired. Only two Bishops were affected by this law; namely, Bishops John D. Brooks, who was too feeble to serve if he had been re-elected, and Bishop Samson Talbot who died soon after the close of the General Conference in In , the General Conference decided that there should be no re-election and that the Bishops have active service, as well as a life tenure to the office.

And there have been no Bishops retired since that time. Bishop Thompson was incapacitated for every service for two years before his death, but his colleagues cared for his work, and he drew the salary until his life work was ended. We hope that we have made plain, that while our fathers failed to ordain Bishops for life at the beginning, it was not for the lack of authority to do so, but at the beginning the General Superintendent was elected for four years at a time because that was preferred.

This may be accounted for to some extent by the fact that congregationalism largely predominated in the East, especially in New England. The ministers in Zion were all abolitionists and they could not extend far South where the Episcopal sentiment was stronger. The idea of larger freedom was associated with an elective superintendency.

And it was not until the emancipation and the extension of the Church to the Southland, where the Methodist people had no idea of a Page 28 church without a bishop, that many of the early preachers realized the importance that an episcopacy which is free from any display of arrogance or unseemly assumption of power, is capable of the best possible results.

The first recorded yearly conference as they were then called was the conference which met in Zion church, New York City, on the 21st day of June, There were 22 preachers enrolled at this Conference. This was the New York Conference. Bishop Moore gives a synopsis of the minutes of yearly conferences from to The minutes of seven sessions of that period are omitted.

The Philadelphia Conference was organized in Rush, presiding. This was the last Conference organized by him. This Conference was shortlived. We have no minutes of its sessions. It was represented in General Conference in Its name was changed to Baltimore Conference. In it was consolidated with the Philadelphia Conference, and since, we have had the Philadelphia and Baltimore Conference. Clinton, presiding. The Louisiana Conference was organized by Bishop J.

Clinton, March 13, The Tennessee Conference was organized in Knoxville, Tenn. Clinton, in Coffeeville, Miss. It was represented in the General Conference in by ministerial delegates. Clinton, in This was the last conference organized by Bishop J. Clinton, the great organizer. He organized eleven conferences in ten years. Bishop Clinton did his own preparatory missionary work.

He went to Louisiana alone, where Zion ministers had been seen in an army transport vessel. He followed Elder Hood to Newbern in less than six months after he sent him there. He followed Elder Strong to Alabama soon after he sent him. He also followed Hopkins to Tennessee soon after he sent him.

He went to Florida and Georgia to open the way for others. He had 15, members in Louisiana, when he left that work.

What Admonishments have the Prophets Given about Our becoming Zion? | Meridian Magazine

His immediate successor by neglect and mismanagement, lost nearly all of them. Lomax, September 11, Hood, November 18, The Arkansas Conference was organized by Bishop S. Jones, in March, The Central Alabama Conference was organized in Lomax, in The Missouri Conference was organized by Bishop T.

Lomax, September 17, Pettey, November 20, Lomax, January 14, The Ohio Conference was organized by Bishop J. Hood, September, Harris, December, The Palmetto Conference was organized by Bishop I. Clinton, December , at Spartanburg, S. Lomax, at Knoxville, Tenn. This conference was first called the East Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina Conference, but has had for many years the shorter name. The Oregon Conference was organized in by Bishop C.

The West Central N. Conference was organized by Bishop J. The Albemarle Conference was organized at Edenton, N. Hood and G. Clinton, November 30, The Cahaba Conference was organized at Bessemer, Ala. For what follows the author alone is responsible. Copied from the History of years of the A.

Since we have asserted the ancient greatness of the Negro race, and since assertion is lame without proof, a chapter here on this subject may not be out of place. It is the impression with many that the Negro has no history to which he can point with pride. There could be no greater mistake than this. If it had been in the power of modern historians of the Caucasian race to rob him of his history, it would have been done. But the Holy Bible has stood as an everlasting rock in the black man's defense. God himself has determined that the black man shall not be robbed of his record which he has made during the ages.

And here again we acknowledge with humility and thanksgiving our great obligation to God for his goodness toward the race. At every step in this investigation we see plainly the hand divine interposed in our behalf; and the more we investigate the subject, the more deeply do we feel the obligation the race is under to love, fear, and serve that God who has so carefully watched over our destiny. The first and most illustrious of earth's historians has left on record statements which set forth the fact beyond reasonable doubt that an ancestor of the Negro race was the first of earth's great monarchs, and that that race ruled the world for more than a thousand years; and the statements of Moses are confirmed by the testimonies of the earliest secular historians whose writings have come down to our time.

Ethiopia and Egypt were first among the early monarchies, and these countries were peopled by the descendants of Ham, through Cush and Mizraim, and were governed by the same for hundreds of years. Palestine was peopled by Canaan, the younger son of Ham, upon whom the curse was pronounced, and, notwithstanding the Page 34 curse, his posterity ruled that land for more than eight hundred years.

They were in it when the promise of it was made to Abraham, and four hundred years later, when Israel came out of Egypt, they were still in full possession of it. Neither Joshua nor the judges of Israel could drive them out; not until David became king were the Jebusites driven out from the stronghold of Zion.

It was from this ancient seat of the Jebusites, also called Salem, the seat of royalty and power, that Melchizedek, the most illustrious king, priest and prophet of the race, came forth to bless Abraham, as seen in Genesis xiv. There have been many wild notions respecting this personage, for which there is no good reason. As Dr. Barnes says:. In that account there is no difficulty whatever. As a tribute of gratitude to him and a thank offering to God, Abraham gave him a tenth part of the spoils which he had taken.

Such an occurrence was by no means improbable; nor would it have been attended with any special difficulty if it had not been for the use which the apostle makes of it in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Yet on no subject has there been a greater variety of opinions in regard to this man. The bare recital of the opinions would fill a volume. But in a case which seems to be plain from the Scripture narrative, it is not necessary even to enumerate these opinions. They only serve to show how easy it is for men to mystify a clear statement of history, and how fond they are of finding what is mysterious and marvelous in the plainest narrative of facts.

Barnes remarks, states that he was a pious Canaanite. That the latter opinion Page 35 is false is perfectly clear; for if he was the Son of God, with what propriety could the Apostle say that he 'was made like the Son of God'--that is, like himself; or that Christ was constituted a priest 'after the order of Melchizedek'--that is, that he was a type of himself.

The most simple and probable opinion is that given by Josephus: that he was a pious Canaanitish prince, a person eminently endowed by God, who acted as the priest of his people. That he combined within himself the offices of priest and king, furnished to the Apostle a beautiful illustration of the offices sustained by the Redeemer, as he was, in this respect, perhaps the only one whose history is recorded in the Old Testament who would furnish such an illustration. Barnes here mentions is evidently what the Apostle means by his being without father, etc.

His genealogy was not recorded. In this respect, like the Son of God, he stood alone; he was not in the line of priests; he was preceded by no one in the sacerdotal office, nor was he followed by any. That he was superior to Abraham and consequently to all who descended from Abraham; that a tribute was rendered to him by the great ancestor of the fraternity of Jewish priests, was also an illustration which suited the purpose of Paul. Albert Barnes, "Notes on Hebrews," chap. We have copied so much from Dr. Barnes' Commentary for two reasons: 1. Because his opinion agrees with what appeared to us to be the natural conclusion when we first read the account of Melchizedek in Josephus, more than thirty years ago.

Because we wished to show that in the opinion we have advanced we are supported by one of the ablest Bible expounders of our time. Barnes is a standard author; his commentaries have been adopted by the Presbyterian Board. Those who wish to see what further he has to say can consult his notes on Heb. It seems impossible to reach any other conclusion than that Melchizedek was king of the Jebusites; they took possession of that land when the posterity of Noah was dispersed from Babel.

At the time that Abraham met Melchizedek they had been in possession of it for nearly three hundred and fifty years, and they remained in possession of it for eight hundred years more. Salem, the seat of government, was the same which was also called Jerusalem. Josephus positively states this, and Dr. Barnes Page 36 says it is the almost universal opinion. The change, it is generally agreed, comes from the name of the inhabitants--the Jebusites--Jebus being changed to Jerus, and that to Jerusalem. In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place is Zion.

Rahab and Tamar were both Canaanites, and both, also, the ancestors of the world's Redeemer. It is not quite certain that the Canaanites were black; but there can be no doubt that they descended from Ham, the father of the black race; and "Cursed be Canaan" is a favorite text with those who delight in the idea of Negro inferiority. We may remark that some have claimed that the curse upon Canaan extended to the whole of Ham's race; upon what grounds this claim is set up we have never been able to discover, except the desire to have it so.

The natural conclusion, it seems to us, if we want to make anything more of it than the simple historical statement that Noah cursed his grandson for his son's misconduct, would be that Noah was led to take this plan, to avoid the idea that the rest of Ham's posterity was affected by the curse. In naming the younger son, we would naturally get the idea that the curse was to fall upon the smaller portion of Ham's race. To our mind this was a prediction which was fulfilled when Joshua led Israel into the promised land. They were driven out of the land and exterminated to a considerable extent, but they were not made slaves in any considerable numbers.

The promise of God was not that Israel should make slaves of them--He has never sanctioned slavery--but His promise was to drive them out, not all at once, but little by little. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beasts of the field multiply against thee.

What Admonishments have the Prophets Given about Our becoming Zion?

By little and little, I will drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in the land, lest they make thee sin against me; for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee. And yet Israel did make a covenant with them, and in that the prophecy of Noah was fulfilled. Israel did serve their gods, and they were ensnared, and therefore were never able to drive out all the Canaanites. Respecting the covenant that Israel made with the Canaanites see Josh. And thus was fulfilled the prophecy of Noah, "Servant of servants shall he be," etc.

This, however, was a very small portion of Canaan's race; enough, indeed, to fulfil the prophecy, but not enough to make the noise about, that Negro-haters have been making for the last two or three hundred years. God promised to drive out the Canaanites, that Israel might inhabit the land free from the snares of idolatry, but God's promise was conditional. To avoid the dangerous increase of wild beasts a portion of the Canaanites were permitted to remain until Israel had sufficiently increased to populate the land. During this period of joint occupancy the Israelites were required to keep themselves from idolatry and from all entangling alliances with the Canaanites.

The Israelites failed in both these requirements; they worshipped the idols an married the sons and daughters of the Canaanites. Hence, God did not drive out all of the Canaanites, and Israel could not drive them out. We have already mentioned the fact that the Jebusites held their stronghold till David came to the throne; their dislodgement was then necessary to the accomplishment of the divine purpose; but the Sidonians, descendants of the elder son of Canaan, including the Tyrians, were never driven out by the Israelites.

They, with their kindred, the Carthaginians, were the most powerful maritime nations of their time. The Philistines, who gave Israel more trouble than any other of the nations in that land, were the descendants of Ham through Mizriam. As an evidence of the strength and valor of the nations with which Israel had to contend in the land of Canaan, we have the fact that, during the four hundred years in which the judges ruled, Israel was in bondage more than seventy years to those nations.

It was not weakness nor the want of courage on the part of the Canaanites, nor the superiority of the Israelites which gave Israel a habitation in that land; but God had a purpose in the interest of humanity, and the idolatry of the Canaanites rendered them suitable objects upon which to operate upon carrying out of that purpose.

Historians tell a story of the Tyrians and Carthaginians which is most credible to both: "When Alexander was besieging Tyre, the Tyrians took that which they valued most highly, their wives and little children, and sent them to Carthage, and although the Carthaginians were engaged in war, they received them and succored them with parental care. Considering the period at which this occurred, it indicates a marvelous degree of advancement in the knowledge of what is due to the family.

Carthage has contributed to the honor of the Negro race not only in this, but also in producing one of the most renowned warriors that has ever appeared upon a field of battle. Of course we refer to Hannibal; but besides him there was another, less renowned, it is true, but greater in that he was both statesman and warrior. We refer to Hamilcar, the father of Hannibal. He took Hannibal at nine years of age and taught him the art of war. He had the ability to unite the forces for victory; the lack of this was Hannibal's misfortune and the ruin of Carthage.

But in boldness, in courage, and in the splendid management of his forces, Hannibal has had no superior and but few equals since man began to fight. Hannibal also possessed some ability as a statesman. History informs us that upon one occasion by a persuasive speech he brought the Carthaginian senate to a unanimous agreement on an important matter on which there had been a disagreement.

He feared that if the senate was not unanimous, there would be dissensions among the people. Carthage also gave to the world in the person of St. Augustine and St. Cyprian, two of the ablest ministers of which the Christian Church can boast. The simple mention of these names is all that any man at all acquainted with Church history needs.

That the Phoenicians, who were the founders of Carthage in union with original Africans, were the descendants of Canaan, there ought Page 39 to be no question; but since everything honorable to the Negro race is questioned, we will simply give the testimony of Rollins. He says: "The Canaanites are certainly the same people who are called, almost always, Phoenicians by the Greeks, for which name no reason can be given, any more than the oblivion of the true one.

Rollins did not know why this, instead of the true name, was given; neither do we know, but we may easily conjecture that since it was the Greeks that gave this name instead of the true one, it may have been their purpose to hide the fact that the people to whom they were so greatly indebted were the descendants of the accursed son of Ham. This would be in perfect accord with the conduct of the Caucasian race to-day. We have also the testimony of Dr. Barnes that the Phoenicians were descended from the Canaanites. In his notes on Matt. Anciently the whole land, including Tyre and Sidon, was in possession of the Canaanites, and called Canaan.

The Phoenicians were descended from the Canaanites. The country, including Tyre and Sidon, was called Phoenicia or Syrophenicia; that country was taken by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, and these cities in the time of Christ were Greek cities.

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This woman was therefore a Gentile, living under the Greek government and probably speaking that language. She was by birth a Syrophoenician, born in that country, and descended therefore from the ancient Canaanites. On the same text Dr. Abbott says: "The term Canaan was the older title of the country, and the inhabitants were successively termed Canaanites and Phoenicians, as the inhabitants of England were successively call Brittons and Englishmen.

Of Carthage we may remark, through all the hundreds of years of its existence as an independent government, it remained a republic. Rollins, speaking of its government, says:. He grounds his opinion on a reflection which Page 40 does great honor to Carthage by remarking that from the foundation of his time that is, upward of five hundred years no considerable sedition had disturbed the peace nor any tyrant oppressed the liberty of the State.

It is therefore giving Carthage the highest praise to observe that it had found out the art, by the wisdom of its laws and the harmony of the different parts of its government, to shun during so long a series of years two rocks that are so dangerous, and on which others so often split. It were to be wished that some ancient author had left us an accurate and regular description of the customs and laws of the famous republic. While we agree with Rollins in his lament of the want of a more complete history of that ancient Negro Republic, yet if those Caucasians who are wont to arrogate to themselves all the excellencies of this world, and to deny that the Negro ever has been great, or ever can be, would take time to read what has been written, with sufficient care to understand it, they would add much to their store of knowledge.

Having touched briefly upon the history of the posterity of Ham through his younger son, we shall now take a brief view of the greatness of that posterity as it is seen in his descendants through his second son, Mizraim. That the ancient Egptians were black both the Holy Scriptures and the discoveries of science, as also the most ancient history, most fully attest.

But as some profess to have doubts on this point, we shall take some testimony which we think no fair minded man will attempt to dispute. The psalmisticalls to memory the wonders which God wrought for His people, and celebrates in song His dealings with Israel in Egypt and frequently calls Egypt the land of Ham. How can this be accounted for if Egypt was not peopled by the posterity of Ham? But he goes further than this; he calls their dwellings the tabernacles of Ham.

He "smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham. They set among them his signs and wonders in the land of Ham. The man who after reading these pages, can doubt that the Egyptians, to whom Israel was in bondage, were the descendants of Ham is beyond the reach of reason. The repetition seems designed to settle this fact beyond question.

We might add, if it were necessary, that the Book of Canticles is an allegory based upon Solomon's affection for his beautiful black wife, the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. In the sixty-eighth psalm we have a prophecy which connects Egypt with Ethiopia as follows: "Princes shall come out of Egypt, Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God.

Rollins, in speaking of the fact that all callings in Egypt were honorable, gives this as a probable reason, that "as they all descended from Ham, their common father, the memory of their still recent origin to the minds of all in those first ages, established among them a sort of equality, and stamped in their opinion a nobility on every person descended from the common stock.

Again, treating of the history of the kings of Egypt, Rollins says: "The Ancient history of Egypt comprises two thousand one hundred and and fifty-eight years, and is naturally divided into three periods. The first begins with the establishment of the Egyptian monarchy by Menes or Mizraim, the son of Ham, in the year of the world In speaking of the settlement of the sons of Ham, Rollins says: "Cush settled in Ethiopia, Mizraim in Egypt, which generally is called in Scripture after his name and by that of Cham Ham , his father; Phut took possession of that part of Africa which lies westward of Egypt, and Canaan of the country which afterward bore his name.

That ancient Egypt was the seat of the arts and sciences, there can be no doubt; the evidences of this still remain. The cities built by the early kings of Egypt have been the wonder of all succeeding ages. Sesostris stands at the head of the list of the great Egyptian warriors. Rollins says;. This he set about after the Egyptian manner; that is, in a great and noble way. All the male children born on the same day with Sesostris were by the king ordered brought into the court. Here they were educated as if they had been his own children, with the same care as was bestowed on Sesostris with whom they were brought up.

He could not possibly have given him more faithful ministers nor officers who more zealously desired the success of his arms. The chief part of their education was inuring them from infancy to a hard and laborious life, in order that they might one day be capable of sustaining with ease the toils of war.

The instruction included politics and the art of government. His first venture in war was against the Arabians, whom he subdued; a nation which had never before been conquered. He next invaded Libya and subdued the greater part of that country. At the death of his father he felt himself capable of undertaking the greatest enterprises. But before he left his kingdom he provided for his domestic security in winning the hearts of his subjects by his generosity and justice, and a popular, obliging behavior.

He was no less studious to gain the affection of his officers and soldiers, whom he wished to be ever ready to shed the last drop of their blood in his service, persuaded that his enterprises would all be unsuccessful unless his army should be attached to his person by all the ties of esteem, affection and interest. He divided the country into thirty-six governments called Nomi , and bestowed them on persons of merit and the most approved fidelity. In the meantime he made the requisite preparation, levied forces, and headed them with officers of the greatest bravery and reputation; and these were taken chiefly from among the youths who had been educated with him.

He had seventeen hundred of these officers, who were all capable of inspiring his troops with resolution, a love of discipline, and a zeal for the service of their prince. His army consisted of , foot, and 24, horse, besides 27, armed chariots. He made it tributary aud obliged the nations to furnish him annually a certain quantity of ebony, ivory and gold. He himself leading the army, he overran and subdued Asia with amazing rapidity, and advanced farther into India than Hercules, Bacchus, and in after times, Alexander himself ever did; for he subdued the countries beyond the Ganges and advanced as far as the ocean.

One may judge from hence how unable the more neighboring nations were to resist him. The Scythians, as far as the river Tonais, as well as Armenia and Cappadocia, were conquered. He left a colony in the ancient kingdom of Colchos, situated to the east of the Black Sea, where the Egyptian customs and manners have been ever since retained.

In several countries was read the following inscription engraved on pillars: 'Sesostris, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, subdued this country by the power of his arms. He returned, therefore, laden with the spoils of the vanquished nations, dragging after him a numberless multitude of captives, and covered with greater glory than any of his predecessors; that glory I mean, which employs so many tongues and pens in its praise; which consists in invading a great number of provinces in a hostile way, and is often productive of numberless calamities.

He rewarded his officers and soldiers with a truly royal magnificence, in proportion to their rank and merit. He made it both his pleasure and duty to put the companions of his victory in such a condition as might enable them to enjoy during the remainder of their days a calm and easy repose, the just reward of their past toils.

With regard to himself, forever careful of his own reputation, and still more of making his power advantageous to his subjects, he employed the repose which peace allowed him in raising works that might contribute more to the enriching of Egypt than the immortalizing of his own name; works in which art and industry of the workmen were more admired than the immense sums which had been expended on them. In the face of the indisputable facts of history, Mede says: "There never has been a son of Ham who hath shaken a scepter over Japheth; Shem hath subdued Japheth and Japheth subdued Shem, but Ham never subdued either.

Mede's historical researches must have been barren of results, or he must have forgotten many things. It is amazing what an amount of ignorance and stupidity race prejudice, conceit, and arrogance are responsible for. Gardner says: "It is to the Caucasian race that the history of the world must mainly confine itself, for with that race originated almost all that ennobles and dignifies mankind. Another outburst of wind. These thoughtless scribes shut their eyes to the fact that the race of Ham dominated the world for nearly, if not quite fifteen hundred years.

They shut their eyes to the fact that for fifteen hundred years more, dominion was constantly shifting and no one race held undisputed sway. For the last two thousand years the ascending star of empire has been with the Caucasian races; Japheth, the last, has become first. The facts recorded by Rollins concerning Sesostris are not at all liable to the suspicion of having been colored by his admiration of that great prince.

Rollins indicates very clearly the absence of admiration; he not only questions that kind of glory which historians accorded to Sesostris, but also criticises his vanity as follows:. The kings and chiefs of the conquered nations came at stated times to do homage to their victor and pay him the appointed tribute.

On every other occasion he treated them with sufficient humanity and generosity, but when he went to the temple or entered his capital he caused these princes to be harnessed to his car, four abreast, instead of horses, and valued himself upon his being thus drawn by the lords and sovereigns of other nations. What I am most surprised at is that Diodemus should rank this foolish and human vanity among the most shining acts of this prince. Thus it is seen that Rollins was ready to censure even where others praised Sesostris. As a godly man, Rollins was compelled to condemn this unparalleled exhibition of human vanity.

At Page 45 the same time his statement of the fact indicates the high esteem in which this prince was held. That the lords of those conquered nations submitted to thus dishonor themselves to do him honor, shows how completely he was master of the situation. It indicates more than this: it indicates the wonderful wisdom and power of that black prince, in that he was able, through a long reign, to hold these chiefs in faithful allegiance without a single revolt. The record given by Rollins indicates that Sesostris was among the wisest, as well as among the most powerful monarchs of earth.

Napoleon was a great warrior, but he died in exile, prisoner of war. Alexander was a great general, but he made a foolish march across a desert country, almost to the dastruction of his army, for the foolish purpose of worshipping at the shrine, and of being called the son of Jupiter Ammon. This so discouraged his forces that he never accomplished the object of his ambition. For this, many of his command despised him.

Sesostris made no such blunders in his campaign. He went forth conquering until he met a providential interposition; his climax of wisdom was displayed in his turning back when he discovered that not merely mortal beings, but the great immortal opposed his further conquest. He returned to his own country to enjoy in peace and prosperity the fruits of his unparalleled victories. His conduct toward those cities which resisted his attacks most stubbornly, was in striking contrast to that of Alexander; as Alexander advanced to invade Egypt he found at Gaza a garrison so strong that he was obliged to besiege it.

It held out a long time, during which he received two wounds; this provoked him to such a degree that when he had captured the place, he treated the soldiers and inhabitants most cruelly. He cut ten thousand men to pieces and sold all the rest with their wives and children for slaves.

His treatment of Betis, the commandant of the forces, was the most shameful of anything recorded in history. Sesostris, on the other hand, was pleased with those who defended their possessions most bravely; the degree of resistance which he had to overcome was denoted by him in hieroglyphical figures on monuments.

The more stubborn the resistance, the greater the achievement and the more worthy the people to become his subjects. Respecting the foolish march of Alexander which we have mentioned, the following from Rollins will explain:. Ham, the son of Noah, first peopled Egypt and Libya after the flood; and when idolatry began to gain ground in the world some time after, he was the chief deity of those countries in which his descendants had continued.

A temple was built to his honor in the midst of these deserts, upon a spot of pretty good ground, about two leagues broad, which formed a kind of island in a sea of sand. It is he whom the Greeks call Jupiter and the Egyptians Ammon. Alexander having read in Homer and other fabulous authors of antiquity that most of their heroes were represented as the sons of some deity, and as he himself was desirous of passing for a hero, he was determined to have some god for his father.

Accordingly he fixed upon Jupiter Ammon for this purpose, and began by bribing the priests and teaching them the part they were to act. Alexander had a journey to go of sixteen hundred stadia, or eighty French leagues, to the temple of Jupiter Ammon, and most of the way through sandy deserts. The soldiers were patient enough for the first two days' march, before they arrived in the extensive, dreadful solitudes; but as soon as they found themselves in vast plains, covered with sands of prodigious depth, they were greatly terrified. These ravens sometimes flew to the ground, when the army marched slowly, and at other times advanced forward, as if it were to serve them as guides, till they at last came to the temple of the god.

A surprising circumstance is that, although this oracle is situated in the midst of an almost boundless solitude, it nevertheless is surrounded with a grove so very shady that the sunbeams can scarcely pierce it, not to mention that this grove or wood is watered with several springs of fresh water which preserve it in perpetual verdure. At day-break it is lukewarm; at noon cool, but in the evening it grows warmer and at midnight is boiling hot; after this as day approaches it decreases in heat, and continues this vicissitude forever.

The god who is worshipped in this temple is not represented Page 47 under the form which painters and sculptors generally give to gods, for he is made of emeralds and precious stones, and from head to navel resembles a ram. The king being come into the temple, the senior priest declared him to be the son of Jupiter, and assured him that God himself bestowed this name upon him. Alexander accepted it with joy and acknowledged Jupiter his father. He afterward asked the priest whether his father Jupiter had not allotted him the empire of the world; to which the priest, who was as much a flatterer as the king was vainglorious, answered that he should be monarch of the universe.

Decorated with the splendid title of the son of Jupiter, and fancying himself raised above the human species, he returned from his journey as from a triumph. From that time, in all his letters, his orders and decrees, he always wrote the following: "Alexander King, Son of Jupiter Ammon.

Notes and Commentary on Isaiah 1–12

If the fact that Sesostris had his chiefs to take the place of horses in conveying him to the temple was vain and foolish, what shall be said of the vanity of Alexander in this exploit? But we have transcribed this passage for the purpose of calling attention to the fact, that there could have been no such prejudice against the Negro, Ham, at that day, as his race endures to-day. There could have been no thought that he was inferior to Shem or Japheth, for here we see the most distinguished of the warriors descending from Japheth renouncing his own race and his own father and claiming Ham, deified, for his father.

We can hardly think that Alexander was so ignorant as not to know of whose honor and to whose memory this god was erected. The country in which he was situated, his black priests, and all the circumstances surrounding him rendered it impossible for Alexander to escape knowledge of his identity. This ought to satisfy any reasonable mind that the race of Ham must some time have been uppermost among the sons of men.

Cadmus, who invented letters and took them to Greece, is admitted to have been either Egyptian or Phoenician both claimed him ; it does not matter which, he was a descendant of Ham; and he may have descended from both by intermarriage. The ancient greatness of Ham's descendants on the line of his elder son, Cush, is most strikingly set forth by Moses in the Book of Genesis. The record is as follows:. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Galah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city.

The sacred historian generally in recording facts on this side of the flood gives only a particular account of the posterity of Shem, and enlarges upon facts respecting other nations only in some relatiom to Shem's posterity. The passage just quoted is a departure from this rule, and the reason for the special prominence given to this distinguished Ethiopian is far to seek unless it was Jehovah's purpose that a despised race, in generations following should thus be able to point to the greatness of its ancestry.

Take his record, found in the tenth chapter of Genesis, and you will notice that nearly one-fourth of the chapter is taken up with the account of this one man. It is the chapter in which Moses gives the settlements of the generations of Noah; all that is said of more than fifty heads of families is contained in this chapter; but as we have noticed, Nimrod gets the lion's share, and is made to appear more distinguished for his greatness and mighty achievements than any other man from the time of Noah to that of Abraham.

The historian could not have given him greater prominence, and the fact that Moses wrote by inspiration heightens the significance of the record and adds to the distinction of this ancient black hero. We may remark, however, that Moses, having married a black woman, was not averse to doing justice to her race, a thing which cannot be said of modern historians. In this record it is seen that Nimrod was the first of earth's great monarchs; the first to erect a great empire, the first to bring other nations under his control.

He was the beginning or first of mighty ones among men, and also a mighty hunter before the Lord," or "as Nimrod the mighty one. And his successors were not only some of the mightiest men that ever ruled, but also, a woman who led to victory the largest army ever marshaled by a female. We refer to Semiramis. It was she to whom Alexander referred when he admitted that a woman had performed mightier achievements in a certain land than he had. This Babylonian or Chaldean empire established by Nimrod and enlarged and embellished by his successors, was the head of gold in the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his dream, which went from him and was recalled by the prophet Daniel.

It had for hundreds of years almost universal dominion. As to the length of its duration two particular opinions have chiefly prevailed. Some authors, as Clesias, whose opinion is followed by Justor, give it a duration of thirteen hundred years; others reduce it to five hundred and twenty, of which number is Herodotus. The diminution, or rather the interruption of power which happened in this vast empire might possibly give occasion to this difference of opinion, and may, perhaps, serve in some measure to reconcile it.

But where certainty is not to be had, I suppose a reasonable person will be satisfied with probability; and in my opinion a man can hardly be deceived if he makes the Assyrian empire equal in antiquity with the city of Babylon, its capital. This computation comes within a few years of the time in which we suppose Nimrod to have founded that city. Indeed, this testimony of Callisthenes, as it does not agree with other accounts of that matter, is not esteemed authentic by the learned; but the conformity we find between it and the Holy Scriptures should make us regard it.

Upon these grounds we think we may allow Nimrod to have been the founder of the first Assyrian empire, which subsisted with more or less extent and glory upward of fourteen hundred and fifty years, from the time of Nimrod to that of Sardanapalus, the last king, that is to say, from the year of the world to the year He was the son of Cush, grandson of Ham and great-grandson of Noah. He was, says the Scripture, a 'mighty hunter before the Lord.

In ancient history we find some footprints remaining of this artifice of Nimrod, whom the writers have confounded with Ninus, his son; for Dodonus has these words: Ninus, the most ancient of the Assyrian kings mentioned in history, performed great actions; being naturally of a warlike disposition and ambitious of the glory that results from valor, he armed a considerable number of young men that were brave and vigorous like himself, trained them up for a long time in laborious exercises and hardships, and by that means accustomed them to bear the fatigue of war patiently and to face danger with courage and intrepidity.

And what the same historian further says of Ninus, that he was the first king of the Assyrians, agrees exactly with what the Scripture says of Nimrod, that he began to be mighty upon the earth; that is, he procured himself settlement, built cities, subdued his neighbors, united different peoples under one and the same authority by the band of the same polity and the same laws, and formed them into one state, which, for those early times, was of a considerable extent, though bounded by the river Euphrates and Tigris, and which in succeeding ages made new acquisitions by degrees and at length extended its conquests very far.

Most of profane historians ascribe the founding of Babylon to Semiramis; others to Belus. It is evident that both the one and the other are mistaken, if they speak of the first founding of the city, for it owes its beginning neither to Semiramis nor Ninus, but to the foolish vanity of those persons mentioned in Scripture who desired to build a tower and a city that should render their memory immortal. Josephus relates, upon the testimony of a sibyl who must have been very ancient and whose fiction cannot be imputed to the indiscreet zeal of any Christians , that the gods threw down the tower by an impetuous wind or a violent hurricane.

Had this been the case Nimrod's temerity must have been much greater to rebuild a city and a tower which God himself had thrown down with such marks of His displeasure. Having possessed himself of the province of Asshur, he did not ravage them like a tyrant, but filled them with cities, and made himself as much loved by his new subjects as he was by his old ones. Among other cities, he built one more large and magnificent than the rest, which he called Nineveh, from the name of his son Ninus, in order to immortalize his memory.

The son in his turn Page 52 out of veneration for his father, was willing that they who had served him as their king should adore him as their god, and induce other nations to render him the same worship. For it appears plainly that Nimrod is the famous Belus of the Babylonians, the first king whom the people deified for his great actions. One difficulty with profane authors respecting Nimrod is, that they have overlooked the fact that he possessed himself of the land of Asshur, or Assyria; and another is that one profane author at some period fell into the mistake of confounding the acts of Ninus with those of his father Nimrod, and others have copied the error.

Like Rollins, we plant ourselves upon the Bible; our first knowledge of ancient history was obtained from that source. Where it speaks at all, it is the rule by which all must be squared; where it is silent, other creditable authorities are good; but that which is in direct conflict with it, must err. The testimony which might be gathered in support of the position we have taken respecting the ancient greatness of Ham's posterity would fill a volume; but the limits of the plan of this book forbid a more extended consideration of the subject.

If what is here written shall induce those who come after us, whose better opportunities will enable them to give the subject a more learned consideration to go to the bottom of this matter, our reward will be ample. Those who take issue with us will, we think, be compelled to pay more attention to the subject than historians generally are wont to do. Those who may be inclined to combat our position, will ask: "If the race of Ham was once so great, why is it now so small?

Why is it that the race everywhere is so degraded, so ignorant, and so wretched? The answer is not far to seek. Ham forsook God and took the world for his position. The language of Abraham addressed to the rich man in torment might well be addressed to Ham: "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things. For fifteen hundred Page 53 years he possessed the earth through his posterity, and what did he do with it? He led the nations into idolatry. He began at Babel, in Nimrod his grandson, to exhibit his daring impiety. God had said: "Go forth, multiply, and replenish the earth.

Nimrod said: "No, let us not do that. It is not well for us to get scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly, and let us build us a city here in Shinar , and let us erect a tower, whose top may reach unto heauen , that we may see it at any distance, that it may serve as a rallying point, a center of gravity around which all our interests shall cluster ; 'and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

Of course in this great empire, of which this city was to be the center, Nimrod was to be sovereign. He was to take the place of the Almighty in the hearts and affections of the people. He was not a tyrant in the ordinary sense of that term; he was a bold, fearless, scheming political boss. He was the more dangerous and the more successful because of his extraordinary sagacity; by his graceful address, his wonderful physical powers, his energy and dash, he won the hearts of the people and swayed them at his will, just as scheming political bosses do now.

The purpose of God was to scatter them; the purpose of Nimrod was to hold them together for his own aggrandizement. So God said: "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth. Although Moses does not mention the fact, yet we think it quite probable that the difference in complexion, as well as language, had its origin in connection with this purpose of God to scatter the nations all over the whole earth.

It was not to hinder the building of a city that God confounded their languages, but to scatter them. For God said: "Nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do. But so long as they are one people and one language they will continue to hang together. Those who could understand remained together. Many remained with Nimrod, who began his kingdom there; notwithstanding the displeasure which God had shown respecting his conduct, he was determined to make himself a name there. Page 54 This is the name he made, and not only his own race, but all the nations of the earth forsook God and went a whoring after it.

Richard Watson, in his Biblical and Theological Dictionary, page , after speaking of the general use of the term Baal among the Babylonians and Assyrians, the Phoenicians, Sidonians, Tyrians, Carthaginians, and other Canaanitish nations, says:. The worship of Baal, Bel, Belus, and Belenus was general throughout the British Islands, and certain of its rights and observances are still maintained among us, notwithstanding the establishment of Christianity during so many ages.

A town in Perthshire, on the borders of the Highlands, is called Tilliebeltane, or Tillebellane; that is, the eminence or rising ground of the fire of Baal. In the neighborhood is a Druidical temple of eight upright stones, where it is supposed the fire was kindled. At some distance from this is another temple of the same kind, but smaller, and near it a well still held in great veneration. On Beltane morning superstitious people go to this well and drink of it, then make a procession round it nine times, so deep rooted is this heathenish superstition in the minds of many who reckon themselves good Protestants.

Thus it is seen that the idolatry established by the posterity of Ham reached the uttermost regions of the Caucasian race. This is the great sin of Ham and his sons; they were originators and promoters of idolatry, the stench in God's nostrils, the thing of all most hateful and most hated by the sovereign God of all.

The greatness which we have been ascribing to Ham's race is the earthly sort, that which profane writers of every race have extolled.

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It is from their standpoint that we have been writing. We claim there is no true greatness outside of godliness. The mass of the ancient descendants of Ham were not godly, and therefore not truly great; they were men who, as the psalmist says, have their portion in this life. Ham's race in early times produced a few exceptions to this rule: Melchizedek, before mentioned, was the most distinguished exception. In honor of his righteousness God blessed the Jebusites beyond other of the doomed nations, in that they were permitted to retain their stronghold of Zion for four hundred years after the entrance of Israel upon their promised possessions.

His righteous administration Page 55 was long remembered and its influence long felt. Many of those who enjoyed his instructions and his priestly intercessions were probably induced to lead pious lives, and thus the knowledge of the true God was long retained among them. Rahab, who hid the spies, and became one of the ancestors of the world's Redeemer, was a believer in the one only living and true God.

There were, no doubt, many others, but the mass were idolaters, and this is why the race has felt the divine displeasure. But the promise is that princes shall come out of Egypt, and that Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God. Whatever shall become of the two younger sons of Ham, this promise assures us that the two elder sons shall cast aside idolatry and return unto the Lord.

That this prophecy is now in the course of fulfilment, the Negro Church stands forth as unquestioned evidence. It is the streak of morning light which betokens the coming day. It is the morning star which precedes the rising sun. It is the harbinger of the rising glory of the sons of Ham. It is the first fruit of the countless millions of that race who shall be found in the army with banners in the millennial glory of the Christian Church. When I was in England, I was asked: "Are there churches in America composed wholly of colored people?

The necessity that I was under to give an answer, was the origin of this statement. It is hard for people in other lands to understand that Americanism which excludes an entire race, regardless of moral, material or intellectual worth, from the social and religious circle of other races. We say Americanism, for it is not found elsewhere on the face of the globe. In England, France or Germany, a Negro of character and intelligence is received into the best society as freely as any other race. At the great Ecumenical Conference of Methodists in London, in , the black delegates were especially honored.

There is nothing in that country to remind a black man that he differs from others, unless it be the extraordinary attentions shown him and the distinguished honors heaped upon him. If such were the state of feeling in this country, there would be no necessity for the Negro Church; in fact, it could not exist. The Negro Church is the legitimate offspring of American caste. American slavery, for its own aggrandizement, attempted to chattelize the whole of one of the three great branches of the human race. To do this effectually, it was necessary to deny, as far as possible, or at least to crush out its manhood.

This effort to brutalize the race was a very early development in American history. It was especially apparent in the closing of the door of every social organization against him. It is possible that God did not bother to update the science, so to speak, because he knew man would get to that over time through the gifts he gave to us, including the ability to learn and reason and to figure things out about the physical universe.

There were more important areas where man would never be able to study or reason his way to a correct understanding: Who is God and what is He really like? What are the ultimate measures of right and wrong? What is the real purpose of our existence as people? Apart from a revelation from God, we in our finite existence and sin-distorted perspective would never get to the correct answer to such questions. It is to those matters that God made sure to speak to us with clarity in the story of creation he gave us in Genesis An excellent source for further study of the nature of the worldview of those who first heard the revelation from God through Moses in Genesis is:.

Johnny V. Miller and John M. Soden, In The Beginning Many people in our culture demonstrate an almost blind faith in whatever scientists declare to be true. Media commentators often make disparaging comparisons between reasonable science and cock-eyed religious fairy tales. In such an environment it is natural that many Christians will become inclined to see science as an opponent to our faith and to view scientific inquiry with suspicion and fear.

Before we yield completely to such attitudes, a little bit of history might be helpful. If we go back in time, some years or so, it was an era in Europe that was dominated by a Christian worldview. It was also an era during which scientific inquiry really began to flourish. Those two observations are more than coincidental. The scientific method assumes order and immutable physical laws and equations and those assumptions are most consistent with a belief in a personal Creator who made a good universe.

It can be said that Christian belief and scientific inquiry are old friends. Many find it useful to think of God as having two books by which he reveals truth: the book of creation and the book of scripture.

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Rather than some sort of enemy to be resisted, Christians should welcome science as a providential gift of God. Given that one of the earliest commandments of God to humankind was to have dominion over creation and care for it as a gardener, science has been a resource that helps us to do better at obeying it. So the scientific field can be one of fruitful study for a Christian but it can also come off as an opponent seeking to undermine faith. So we must search out this next matter. What we need to do is become more discerning as to where the points of contention really lay, and stand our ground only where it really matters i.

Not all Christians agree on the degree to which the creation account in Genesis is intended to give accurate scientific information about the process. History tells us one particular embarrassing example of what can happen when we do that. For a long time humans understood the earth to be in a fixed, immovable position. If anything moved in the larger universe, it was the sun and the stars.

This perspective was seen to be taught in scripture. Then along came Galileo and based on previous studies by Copernicus, declared that the earth actually revolved around the sun. Based on the interpretation of the texts above, he was declared by church authorities to be teaching heresy and sent out of the church. All Christians today understand that decision to be based on faulty interpretation of scripture. Almost years later the church finally apologized and reinstated him as a good Catholic. We need to be cautious about repeating the same mistake today.

We may read the text a particular way and be certain that it gives us the correct scientific understanding. But science is a work in progress. It is fine to draw scientific conclusions from scripture and argue our points with vigor but we must hold them tentatively and humbly.

Earlier I described why Christian faith has historically been great friends with scientific inquiry. The findings of science are generally trustworthy because a personal God created an orderly universe. But science has its boundaries. It is a methodology limited to the study of observable, measureable data. So long as it operates happily within those boundaries it is a wonderful resource for man to discover truth. But what if scientists begin to make larger claims and declare that science alone can render truth about the world and reality?

At that point they have crossed a line from scientific inquiry into a kind of belief system which might best be referred to as scientism. It is at this point that we need to call out scientists for a certain narrow mindedness. Those who suggest that we can generate an ultimate explanation of all things from science demonstrate profound over-reach.

Once you accept that science is the only source of human knowledge, you have adopted a philosophic position scientism that cannot be verified, or falsified, by science itself. It is in a word, unscientific. As Christians we delight in our very different worldview, one that is open to the possibility of a personal God existing apart from the physical universe and who out of his loving purpose, revealed things to us that science, even at its best, will never discover.

The conflict that Christians experience in the area of faith and science is often expressed this way: creation vs. That is not the best way to frame things as it contrasts two quite different matters and does not adequately identify the larger, more serious point of contention. It would be better to state the contrary views as: creationism vs. The difference between these two starting points is profound. Is there a definitive moral compass to direct and judge the way humans live?

A created universe will have some purpose, but we will need to know more about the creator in order to determine the details of that. That is where Genesis really shines in giving us clear understanding of who our Creator is and what our purpose is as part of this universe. On the one hand, evolution is simply a description of a mechanism by which change and diversification has occurred in the universe and especially among life forms. By itself it is neutral when it comes to the question of ultimate origins.

It can mesh with a creationist worldview and with a materialist worldview. But evolution, which really is nothing more than a theory about the mechanism for change, is not per se contradictory to creationism. The real issue we contend against is the assumption of materialism. Evolutionary theory is more appropriately contrasted with theories about spontaneous generation or cataclysmic change in the history of the universe.

Whereas evolution proposes long, slow gradual change the contrasting view is that there are sudden cosmic upheavals and sudden appearances of new life forms. It should be noted that there are theories that seek to bridge the two. Some scientists have taken a position called evolutionary creationism. It is also referred to as theistic evolution but the proponents prefer the first term as it clarifies their conviction that it is really creation that is unfolding.

If a process taking billions of years was designed and launched and superintended by God, there is no diminishing of his sovereign creative power. Some Christians would object outright to that possibility. Their resistance usually has to do with the role of chance events and the violent, messy process proposed in the evolutionary theory. It is argued that such realities are simply unbecoming or incompatible with a sovereign God whose acts can always be characterized as good.

There are good arguments to be made on both sides. It should be said that the awe and majesty that one experiences toward a creator is not in question in either position. Whether God created in a really short period of time through cataclysmic change or over a long, intricately designed process, it speaks equally well of his greatness and power and wisdom. Many Scientists like to think of themselves as more objective than the population at large. They think that the scientific method pushes them to go wherever their observations take them, without a pre-determined conclusion.

In the real world all sorts of pressures work against that objectivity. When it comes to the study of the history of the universe some contention arises when bias seems to be in play. For example there is evidence in the fossil record for slow gradual diversification and there is evidence for cataclysmic upheaval and sudden appearance of species. There are some who because of a particular way they read Genesis, believe that the earth is very young, perhaps less than 10, years old. For them, evidence pointing to cataclysmic change tends to be more highly valued than evidence for an earth that is billion years old.

For those who do not believe in God, evidence for cataclysmic change is not their favorite data because present naturalistic evolutionary theory has no easy way to account for that and it leaves more room for asserting the involvement of a divine creator. In our scientific methodology, everyone, including Christians, need to be challenged to have the courage to revisit theories and assumptions along the way.

To whom or to what do we trace our origins?

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Here the options are primarily two: to a personal creator or to some combination of impersonal matter and energy. Is there some purpose or destiny to this universe or does it simply exist for no apparent reason? How we answer the first question determines the answer we give to this question and clarity about our destiny can only come if a Creator reveals his intentions. How did our universe and our world come to have such diversity of form and life?

A case could be made that we do not need to know how so many galaxies came to be or the multitude of life forms on our earth. There is sufficient wonder and worship that is inspired just in observing that they exist. At the same time God has created us with a desire to know and understand and through that to exercise our dominion over the world in which we live. So the determined study of such matters is inevitable.

A famous author writes a short story that is read by many people. There is disagreement among the readers as to the best approach to take in order to take from the story what the author intended. Three points of view emerge:. If the author is still alive, it might be possible to probe him with questions and find out what his real intentions were. If the author is no longer available, that task becomes more difficult. Something similar has occurred as Christians have read and pondered the opening chapters of Genesis.

We all come with some pre-existing ideas about the best way to read these chapters based on conclusions we have come to about literary form and context and the very nature of scripture itself. In many cases, Christians have not really thought at any length about why they read the early chapters of Genesis the way they do and have not evaluated the alternatives.

As I survey the landscape I find that Christians take one of three approaches to these chapters. I will present them by number rather than by label. Genesis is a simple, straightforward, chronological telling of how God created everything, much like a newspaper account or a lab report. The only context that is really important is the immediate literary context of the two chapters. Regardless of the times or cultures in which people live, they can read the account as is and get the main point.

God created everything in six, 24 hours days. This generally puts Christians in an antagonistic relationship with contemporary science. Those who hold this view often present it as the only view that respects the Bible in uncompromising fashion. Christians are charged to choose between the Bible and science.

The meaning we take from it today must be consistent with the original meaning. Therefore the cultural and historical context becomes very important in properly interpreting a text. When God first gave Genesis to his people, their understanding of how things began was unduly influenced by the mythology of the Egyptians among whom they had spent the previous plus years along with the thinking of other neighboring cultures. Genesis is best read as a figurative account of creation intended as a polemic, a way of correcting the thinking of the children of Israel about the nature of God and the world.

In this approach, much of the conflict with contemporary science is taken off the table. The Bible is viewed as mostly silent about the process by which creation unfolded. The first approach emphasizes only the immediate literary context; the second approach gives primary emphasis to the cultural and historical context.

The third approach makes the case that Genesis must be read not as a stand-alone statement about the origin of the universe but as an integral part of Genesis and in fact the whole Pentateuch first five books of the Old Testament. One of the primary themes of these 5 foundational books for the life of Israel is that of the Promised Land. God brought Abraham there to begin a new movement that would be critical for the salvation of the world.

They sojourned in Egypt for plus years and then God miraculously brought them back to the land. He established a covenant with them and gave them a comprehensive set of laws by which they could thrive in the land under the blessing of God. With this context in mind, Genesis can be viewed as a two part account of creation. We are first told in Genesis that God created everything over an unspecified period of time in the beginning and by means of an unspecified process.

We are not told how long God took to create the universe and plant and animal life, but we are told that God took 6 days to fashion the Promised Land out of wilderness. There are some variations in this approach that enlarge the purpose of the six days to include God preparing the world to be his temple and dwelling place.